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Haley Gorecki Has Been Waiting For Her Moment

(Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Haley Gorecki is used to waiting. After opening her freshman season on the bench, she started for the first time in the ninth game of the season, only to go 0-for-6 against UMass. Five games later, she suffered a season-ending hip injury.

Over the summer, she experienced a setback, and she waited out the entire 2016-17 season on the sideline. Returning in 2017-18, Gorecki flourished as a sharp-shooter, notching a career-best 42.3% from behind the arc, but this season was once again cut short by another injury to the hip. And the waiting continued.

Her second return from injury, in 2018-19, marked one of the best individual seasons in Duke history. Gorecki averaged 17.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.6 steals while starting all 30 contests and tying the program single-season record with 36.0 minutes per game. But Duke, after making the NCAA tournament in 2017 and 2018 when Gorecki was sidelined with hip injuries, missed out in 2019. So Gorecki waited for a shot in her fourth year of eligibility, as a graduate student.

Once again, Gorecki impressed. She was named to the All-ACC first team and defensive team. AP recognized her as Honorable Mention All-America and she was one of five finalists for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award as the top shooting guard in the nation. The stats speak for themselves, but the wins against Florida State and NC State down the stretch left many with the impression that Duke might sneak into the tournament.

Gorecki played 40 minutes and scored at least 20 points in both those games, including the final four against Florida State and the final five against NC State. Of course, instead of waiting for her team’s name to be called on selection Monday, Gorecki is waiting for a tournament bracket that will never be released, much less played.

“Obviously, that would have been my first tournament to play in, which was special to me,” Gorecki told Just Women’s Sports. “The way it ended, there was no closure in a sense. It was just sad.”

Nevertheless, Gorecki could look forward to the WNBA draft. Universally, Gorecki was viewed as a prospect, but there was little unanimity on where she might end up.

“I got a lot of phone calls from coaches in the WNBA who expressed interest in drafting me, so that helped to calm my nerves,” Gorecki said. “It made me feel a lot better knowing that I was being looked at as a prospect in the draft and that there was potential for me to be selected.”

Still, not knowing where she would be selected, Gorecki was antsy until draft day. Even then, she was left waiting.

“From talking to coaches, my name was always mentioned in the second round, early second round,” Gorecki said. “It was never in the third. When all of the names were being called, I kept thinking, ‘Okay, where’s my name?’”

With the 31st pick, the Seattle Storm drafted Gorecki. Even Storm head coach Dan Hughes thought Gorecki would be taken sooner, as his staff projected an alternate team to snatch her in the second round.

“Finally, my name popped up and I was relieved,” Gorecki recalled. “It’s funny because Seattle’s coach was actually the last coach I spoke with and now that’s where I’m headed. It all ended up working out in the end.”

As a third round pick and a rookie, nothing is guaranteed for Gorecki. The roster of 15 will need to be culled down to 12 spots.

“First and foremost, I want to make the team,” Gorecki said. “Then, I want to learn as much as I can because you never know how the team is going to be next year. Trades happen, people retire, things change. I want to learn from the people that have been playing in the league for the longest.”

That would be Sue Bird. The 39 year old guard and oldest active player is coming off a lost season due to a left knee surgery. Without her or 2018 League and Finals MVP Breanna Stewart for the 2019 season, the Storm were unable to defend their title. Still, Seattle was a playoff team last season, and the return of Stewart and Bird makes a crowded roster even more tight.

“Being in Seattle, I’ll be learning from the best. Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart — so many legends are on that team,” Gorecki said. “I’m excited to be a sponge and take in their experience and their advice. The coach is great. The organization is awesome. I’m ready to learn and compete.”

The guard position is especially packed. Last year, Jordin Canada emerged as a rising star averaging 9.8 points and 5.2 assists per game, good for third and first on the team, respectively. Former first overall pick Jewell Loyd made her second All-Star appearance and finished second on the team in scoring. Sami Whitcomb can play at the two, and last year was sixth on the team in scoring and third in assists. On top of it all, Bird is coming back.

Gorecki will face steep competition in training camp, whenever it starts. It is indisputable, however, that she will bring a lot to Seattle. Last year, her 166 made free throws were ninth in the college game, and at an efficient 85.6%. Her 554 points were 38th in the country.

“Haley is one of the most productive players in America in the college game,” Hughes said. “She has good size… she gets to the foul line about as well as any player in college basketball a year ago and she has high skill. With all that skill, there’s a toughness about her that was very, very attractive.”

Gorecki’s final college game, an ACC tournament quarterfinal loss to Boston College, epitomized her tenure in blue. She collected 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and a steal. She hit a three-pointer in her 17th straight contest and went 8-for-8 at the foul line. The game has also marked the beginning of her wait.

“There’s no definitive answer for when this is all going to start,” she said. “It’s all still up in the air and nobody has an answer.”

Until then she will, as always, stay ready. With her trainer over Zoom, Gorecki has been lifting, doing core and band work, and working on ball handling.

“You never know when they are going to say, ‘Okay, it’s time to come to training camp.’”

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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